September 11, 2001 began as such a pleasant, sunny day, making the unfathomable, horrendous attacks even more incongruous, though they would have been no less shocking if there had been clouds overhead.
From our Greenwich Village windows we could see the Twin Towers, 1 1/2 miles south of us. By 9:30 AM, neighbors had joined us, hoping that huddling would help. Nothing helped. Our adrenalin was racing, our terror and confusion mounting. At 11:42 AM, filled with horror, we watched as one building collapsed, crumbling down into a massive amount of black clouds.
"Would you have tried to get out?" we questioned one another.
"Do you know anyone who works there?"
"What can we do?"
Two of us rushed off to nearby St. Vincent's Hospital, where New Yorkers were already lined up, prepared to give blood. No ambulances were pulling up. No blood was needed.
That was a day when there were no strangers. In early evening, I asked a woman on a bike who'd been posting flyers, "Who's missing?"
"My best friend's son," she told me. We hugged.
Those flyers started appeared everywhere -- on building walls, fences and poles. A room was set up at the Chelsea Market where people could donate food for others to prepare that would feed workers at Ground Zero. Wearing face masks to avoid inhaling the putrid-smelling air, we walked over with cans of tuna.
Sympathy went out to those who'd been personally affected that grew to include the entire city. "You don't fuck with New York," many said. Some were moved to sign up for the military.
Pictures of the missing hung on the walls of St. Vincent's Hospital remained there for some time. American flags flew from windows. The wire fence across the street from St. Vincent's continues to serve as a memorial to that day in the assemblage of hand-painted tiles affixed to the metal coils with sentiments like, "Detroit loves you, New York." They're a reminder of when we felt united and proud of our country.
It's tragic to consider what happened that day, compounded by the regrets at what's followed.